“Freedom ain’t free.”
“Ain’t” that an American phrase? I know, I know… ‘Merica! I’m convinced, though, that this far truer than your run-of-the-mill patriot realizes. I’m not referring to the lives lost to protect it (though those bear their own weight – broken wives, fatherless sons), but rather to the fact that the biggest secret of “Freedom” is that you have to chain yourself to it.
We want to be free. It’s undeniable that one of the most heart stirring phrases in our cultural vernacular is freedom. Does it mean what we think it does? Growing up my understanding of freedom was that I could make any choice I desired, starting simply and increasing in complexity as I grew older. Anecdote time: I remember vividly a fall festival in my church gym. I was the most uncomfortable scarecrow since the my more famous counterpart had been informed that he didn’t have a brain. My flannel shirt was stuffed full of hay, my face was covered in so much makeup it felt like a mask, and I had yet to figure out how to pee when wearing overalls. However, all that was forgotten when I won the cake walk. Suddenly I was rushed over to a table covered in delectable homemade treats: cookies, brownies, cupcakes, regular cakes, pies, and one wonderful double chocolate fudge cake. I had never had so many choices before and spent some time making up my mind, but I knew nothing could possibly be as glorious, as delicious, as “mine!” as that cake. So I told the lady, “I want number 15!” while dancing my little “I have to pee” jig. I’ll never forget what came next. She told me, “Oh honey, someone’s already claimed that one. You’ll have to pick something else.” My world collapsed. I think I got some pumpkin sugar cookies, I don’t remember, but I never forgave Ms. Angela. That’s for sure.
All that to say, being able to choose from seemingly infinite different life plans, decisions, pleasures, goals, ambitions, relationships, or desserts doesn’t make you free. Freedom is being able to choose the one thing that is worth the choice, even if you didn’t know that thing was it. Satan (not pitchfork and pointy-tail, but deceiver and fallen angel) has always distracted humanity with hiding the one pearl of greatest price in a gumball machine.
In order to truly be free you need three things:
1. The ability to recognize the best choice.
2. The ability to actually choose the best choice.
3. And finally, the ability to enjoy that choice to its fullest potential.
Don’t let this get lost in this logic: God is the best choice. American freedom has granted us part two easily. “You can believe what you want and have what you want!”, but has obscured part 1 and drowned part 3. It has made us focus on the quantity of things we can choose rather than the quality of things we choose. It shouts at us that the infinite yes’s of the world far outweigh the one Yes of God. Himself in his Son. On fall retreat, Joel Brooks spoke about our inheritance being God plus nothing, when will we begin trust that it is worth far more than infinite somethings. The amount of yes’s is insignificant only the value of the one Yes matters.
I believe only the indwelling Spirit of God can grant us true freedom, encapsulating parts 1, 2, and 3. Feel free to follow along on this blog as Christ continues to break my shackles where I have chained myself to a false freedom, and rejoice with me in him, not just now but forever.
John Colburn is an extraordinary articulate co-minister in reconciliation and a good friend of mine. Currently resting from school, he is speaking words of life into his Freshmen Life Group at Calvary Tuscaloosa. For more from the mind of John, see his blog here.